Inheritance, Abstract Class and Interface in Java

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Java is an Object Oriented Programming language, and all the OOPS (object-oriented programming systems) concepts are applicable in programming. There are four main pillars of OOPS, and they are:

1.     Inheritance

2.     Abstraction

3.     Encapsulation

4.     Polymorphism

There is an additional pillar in OOPS that is the concept of multiple inheritances. This concept is only supported by C++, and it has pitfalls while writing complex code; hence the other languages which originated much later to C++ dropped this idea of multiple inheritances rather than modified it to be adopted in a different way. In Java, it is supported through the concept of interfaces.


In the biological world, all living organisms inherit some or all the properties of their parents. An object-Oriented Programming paradigm is based on this real-world philosophy. A child will derive some or all the features of their parents. In Java, ‘extends’ keyword is used to show inheritance.

Let us try to understand with the example of class Animal and class Cat. In this case, Animal class can be considered as a parent class, whereas class Cat can be considered as a child class. A class in Java is the blueprint for creating objects. An object has properties and states. Properties are denoted using methods, while states are denoted using variables. When we design classes for our java program, we can design the parent class methods and states.

-sound: String
-sleep: String
-legs: int
-diet: String 
+getSound(): String
+getSleep(): String
+getLegs(): int
+getDiet(): String
-type : String
-size : String
-breed: String
+getType(): String
+getsize(): String
+getbreed(): String

When we design our Cat class, we need not rewrite all the code for the cat class from scratch and can reuse the code from the animal class. The cat class can be designed to add further some more properties and can reuse the properties of the animal class. Here is the sample code for inheritance:

  private String sound;
  private String sleep;
  private String legs;
  private String diet; // Animal attribute
  public String getSound() { // Animal method
      //implementation of getSound() method here
  public String getSleep() {
      //implementation of getSleep() method here
  public String getLegs() {
      //implementation of getLegs() method here
  public String getDiet() {
      //implementation of getDiet() method here
class Cat extends Animal { //Cat class inherits methods of Animal
  private String type;	// Cat attribute
  private String size;
  private String breed;

  public String getType() {
      //implementation of getType() method here
  public String getSize() {
      //implementation of getSize() method here
  public String getBreed() {
      //implementation of getBreed() method here

  public static void main(String[] args) {
   Cat myCat= new Cat();


The OOPS provides the benefit of hiding non-essential details from the end-user by providing an abstraction. A driver of the car need not necessarily know under the hood implementation of the gearbox, steering mechanism, etc. He/she is shown only the relevant and essential details which he/she wants to know. For example, a driver would be more interested in the clutch, gear, brake, accelerator, dashboard, horn, windshield, side mirror, Air conditioning working, but would not be interested in their implementation. In Java, abstraction can be implemented by using:

a)     Abstract Class

b)     Abstract method

c)     Interfaces

The keyword ‘abstract’ is a non-access modifier and is used for both abstract classes and abstract methods to achieve abstraction. Interface itself helps in achieving the abstraction.

Abstract Class

A java class is declared abstract using the keyword ‘abstract’ and can contain both abstract and non-abstract methods. It cannot be instantiated, or its objects can’t be created. A class inheriting the abstract class has to provide the implementation for the abstract methods declared in the abstract class. An abstract class can contain constructors, static methods, and final methods as well.

Abstract Method

Abstract keyword is used to declare a method abstract, and the method cannot have an implementation in the class where it is declared. The inheriting class has to provide the implementation for that abstract method.

The below sample code will show the example of an abstract class and abstract method. Notice the subclass has to provide the implementation for the abstract method.

// Abstract class abstract class Animal { // Abstract method public abstract void eyeColor(); // Regular method public void sound() { System.out.println("purr"); } } // Subclass (inherit from Animal) class Pig extends Animal { public void favoriteFood() { // The body of favoriteFood() is provided here System.out.println("Hay Stack"); } public void eyeColor() { //implementation of parent abstract method is given here System.out.println(“Eye color is black”); } } class MyMainClass { public static void main(String[] args) { Pig pig = new Pig(); // Create a Truck object pig.eyeColor(); pig.favoriteFood(); } }


Before diving deeper into the concepts of an Interface implementation, we have first to understand the concept of multiple inheritances used by C++. Before Java came into the world, several programming languages were trying to solve the complexity of the code generated using multiple inheritance. It was C++, where it was widely adopted. No doubt, C++ brought Object-Oriented Programming into the world but also introduced some of the complex problems due to the concept of multiple inheritances.

What is Multiple Inheritance?

According to multiple inheritance, a child can have multiple parents. This means that a child can implement the properties of several parents at the same time. This created ambiguity for similar types of properties implemented by various parents. It added to the complexity of the code and introduced bugs in the developed code.

To tackle the problem that was created by multiple inheritance, several ideas were put forward and implemented. Java used interfaces to provide the features used by multiple inheritance.

Interfaces can also be considered an abstract class which group similar methods without any implementation. To use interface in the java code, ‘implements’ keyword is used. A class can implement several interfaces, thus providing similar features that are provided by multiple inheritance. The below example describes an interface and its implementation.

// Interface interface Animal { public void sound(); // interface method public void sleep(); // interface method } interface Breed { public void domesticBreed(); } // Dog "implements" the Animal interface class Dog implements Animal, Breed { public void sound() { // The implementation of sound() is provided here System.out.println("The dog says: woof woof"); } public void sleep() { // The body of sleep() is provided here System.out.println("Zzz"); } public void domesticBreed(){ //implementation of domesticBreed() method System.out.println(“Yes”); } } class MyMainClass { public static void main(String[] args) { Dog dog = new Dog(); // Create a Dog object dog.sound(); dog.sleep(); dog.domesticBreed(); } }

Inheritance, Abstract Class and Interface in Java

Java is an object-oriented programming language, and the above topics form the key pillars of object-oriented programming, or we can also say that Java provides an object-oriented programming paradigm through inheritance, abstraction, and interface.

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